Pentagon plans blimp to spy from new heights


Julian E. Barnes
The Los Angeles Times
March 13, 2009

The Pentagon said Thursday that it intends to spend $400 million to develop a giant dirigible that will float 65,000 feet above the Earth for 10 years, providing unblinking and intricate radar surveillance of the vehicles, planes and even people below.

[efoods]“It is absolutely revolutionary,” Werner J.A. Dahm, chief scientist for the Air Force, said of the proposed unmanned airship — describing it as a cross between a satellite and a spy plane.

The 450-foot-long craft would give the U.S. military a better understanding of an adversary’s movements, habits and tactics, officials said. And the ability to constantly monitor small movements in a wide area — the Afghanistan- Pakistan border, for example — would dramatically improve military intelligence.

“It is constant surveillance, uninterrupted,” Dahm said. “When you only have a short-time view — whether it is a few hours or a few days — that is not enough to put the picture together.”

The project reflects a shift in Pentagon planning and spending priorities under Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who has urged the military services to improve intelligence and surveillance operations while cutting high-tech weaponry costs.

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